He plays an FBI agent assigned to investigate some murders, heinous forms of activity thought to have been eradicated.
Which brings us to another puzzler: If crime is nonexistent, why does Boston have such a large, trigger-happy police force? Presumably, its only duty would be traffic control.
For that matter, if a glamorous, free-swinging life is yours for the asking, who would choose to be a cop?
Surrogates, which borrows tone and content freely from I, Robot, is all windup and no pitch.
The premise has promise: Young, nubile synthetic bodies cruise the streets, controlled by pasty, atrophied, and usually unshaven old slobs sitting at home in their bathrobes. Think of a gallery of Dorian Grays. Or bloggers.
Meanwhile, pockets of dissenters live on reservations. These Luddites, led by a dreadlocked cult figure (Ving Rhames), refuse to participate in the virtual utopia. The surrogate majority refer to them as meat bags.
Having established this scenario, Surrogates doesn't know what do with itself. So it sends Willis off to uncover a conspiracy that filmgoers probably will not understand, and wouldn't care about if they did.
For no good reason, Willis undertakes this loud, lengthy wild goose chase in his own skin, like a turtle without its shell. His diminished capacity and grizzled appearance are sources of some concern to his wife (Rosamund Pike) and his FBI partner (Radha Mitchell).
Willis gets the big bucks for that trademark squinty grimace, amply displayed here. He is forced to emote precisely twice, about par for his film work.
Surrogates will be quickly banished to the island of broken films, but allow us one more question before it disappears: If this is a future of technological wonders, why do all the cars look like they came from a used-car lot in 2005?
Contact staff writer David Hiltbrand at 215-854-4552 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his recent work at http:// go.philly.com/daveondemand.